Hand Tool Headlines
The Woodworking Blogs Aggregator
This "aggregator" collects all of the woodworking blogs I read every day - or try to anyway! Enjoy!
Thank you to everyone who contributed towards Walt Quadrato's battle against cancer! Their fundraising goal was met. Our prayers are with you, Walt!
My wife is all right. Among the tons of junk she brought here all those years ago was 2 pairs of old, but not antique, snowshoes. So today after I finished planing oak for the afternoon, I went for a walk in the snow. Found this red-tail hawk. He landed on this branch while I was standing nearby.
Landed again, all of about twenty or thirty feet from where I first found him. And there he sat, til after the sun went down.
He’s in the middle of this picture on the tall pole. As I was walking back to the car, I heard but did not see 2 great horned owls hooting.
So, where did I left? Mortising chisels! This is how they turned out.
And how do they work? I only used the narrow 1/4" one, It's the long chisel on the right in the picture. I've cut four pretty deep mortises. The styles are 7 cm wide (almost 3") and I cut almost 5 cm deep. That is quite a bit and takes time. First round I don't get much deeper then 2.5 cm, and the deeper you get, the harder it is to get the waste out of the mortise.
I was a bit tentative. Usually I first plow the groove for the panel, that gives a nice start for the mortise. But I don't have any plow plane blade with the exact same width as these chisels. So I carefully start chopping, making sure to stay within the lines. Despite this tentativeness I managed to crack one corner allready! Luckily it was easy to repair with a bit of glue.
Here is my setup. The setup of a tentative men. A clamp on the front to prevent splitting. A holdfast to keep the style upright in its place. A caliper to measure the depth (not to the last 0.1 mm!, It's just a dandy measuring device). A narrower chisel to scoop out the waste. And two mallets, using the round one feels best.
The mortising chisel works very well. The enormous length is very usefull to keep square. The handle feels good and relaxed. The tapering of the blade helps to prevent the chisel getting stuck, but it doesn't feel too loose at all. The bevel is fine as it is and the edge is very durable in this stuff. No chipped corners or folding edge or whatever. I quickly sharpened one time, just to prevent mishaps, rather then to correct them.
And this is the result. Four nice mortises. It's a pitty they won't be visible in the final product.....
For centuries, music was printed from a metal sheet that was carved in reverse (mirror image). The process of constructing this negative was known as music engraving, and it was done by hand. This takes an unimaginable amount of skill, as the layout is of utmost importance. Here is a video that shows the process. If you are an old-tool geek like me, you'll love this one.
What I like best about this video is the part where he is laying out the different staves on a page using dividers.
Up until the 1990s, there were still some big music publishers still producing sheet music this way. It just looks better than anything that can be done on a computer.
I think it just became too expensive to do it the old-fashioned way. If music composer Joe Schmoe could print out his composition from his computer instead of paying a skilled craftsman who-knows-what the going rate is for hand engraving some parts for an orchestra to play, he can get his music out there and played.
But that's not really it, is it. Joe Schmoe always would have written out his parts with pen and ink to save money this way.
I think the publishing companies could save a buttload of money with a few technicians doing this digitally, as opposed to paying an army of highly skilled craftsmen to do it the old fashioned way.
|A music engraver at work. Photo courtesy LilyPond.org|
- Professional-ish looking parts could be printed at home by any amateur.
- Editing a piece of music and getting it back to the performers quickly as opposed to leaving the typos in the printed music for decades, printing after printing.
- Giving composers another tool to use to listen, compose, and print their music. This is way, WAY easier to do now than ever it was by hand.
- Proper looking sheet music.
- Essentially, the final proofing of a piece of sheet music is left to the performer. (Imagine if a novel was published this way!)
Don't get me wrong, I am an expert with a couple of these music programs such as Finale, but most musicians are not that interested in getting good at music engraving. Usually people just want to get good enough at it that they can print something out, no matter what it looks like.
Growing up in the '80s, I could expect to look at a sheet of music and only have to figure out how to get what I saw on the page to sound like what it was supposed to. Today, my community orchestra can not expect anything like the quality of music engraving of a decade or two ago. Even professionally published music has gone down incredibly in quality.
As a performer, I should be able to expect to put a piece of music on the stand, and be able to play it without making photocopies, drawing lines, or interpreting what the composer "really wants." I should be able to expect the printed page to not get in the way of what I am trying to play.
What does all of this mean to hand tool woodworking?
I think this is an example of how fast technology can change an industry, for better or for worse. Not all progress is positive. Larry Williams says he thinks the art of making moulding planes was at its highest quality in the late 18th century, and every design tweak after that point was intended to make it easier to manufacture moulding planes.
I think that music engraving was practiced enough by hand that there still are plenty of experts such as the man in the video still around, but once they are gone, this craft will be lost. If we as woodworkers do not want to teach our children to think IKEA furniture is the only furniture that technology can create, we need to keep making furniture the way we do. Our alternative is superior, and it still makes sense to craft one at a time the way we do.
I do not think hand-tool woodworking is in immediate danger as music engraving is. But what will it be like in a generation or two? It could very easily disappear.
For green woodworkers anyway. In summer, working in the wood pile can be unpleasant sometimes. Buggy, hot, humid. The wood storage can get to be a problem. Insects can get in your wood, decay can set into some species pretty quickly.
But in winter….it’s another story. This pile is against a steep embankment in my yard.
Storing green wood in the log this time of year is a breeze. It’s like suspended animation, even better than Ted Williams’ head. (this is a sure thing, Ted’s head, I doubt it) I try to store the stuff I need the most upright. There’s a few benefits. You don’t have to lift and heave big heavy log sections around to get at the one that’s just exactly perfect for what you need. And when it snows, it’s easier to uncover the stash. The short stuff in this pile is just over four feet, the birch might be over 6′. (I don’t know what that is in the other measuring system)
Here’s some I split out today, broke it down further at the riving brake, and now will bring it in to plane the long stuff for some joined chests & a cupboard. There’s other less-pressing stock under the snow. It can wait.
The kids took a jaunt around the yard to test-drive their new snowshoes. More snow on the way, we’ll hit the woods tomorrow or the next day.
Spooked a great blue heron down by the river.
Coming up this week I’m releasing the first episode of a multi-part series on the construction of my daughter Madison’s 8 drawer dresser. It’s been a long time coming, so I’ve had plenty of time to plan out the details.
Frequently when I build projects I get a lot of requests for measured drawings & plans, and then usually fail to follow through and provide anything. But not this time!
Thanks to some hard work on the part of Brian Benham of Benham Design Concepts we have a full-set of plans for purchase.
The 8 drawer tall dresser plan includes all the measurements, cut list, and detailed diagrams in a downloadable PDF file (PDF drawings only, not available in a Sketchup file format) for building this classic piece of furniture, and are available for sale right now.
Click on the blue button when you’re ready to purchase. You’ll be redirected to your shopping cart.
Then the only thing left to do is fill in your email address and name, and complete your purchase by visiting our PayPal checkout page (a PayPal account isn’t required, other options are available when you get there.)
Once your purchase is completed you’ll be ready to download your plan right away!
If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us by using the contact form below:
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So far I’ve talked about two-and-a-half of the three legs of the stool I am sitting on in order to cope with a cold shop: 1) Isolation (reducing the drafts and minimizing the heated volume), 2) Insulation (via fixed thermal windows and a cocoon of R-43 XPS panels) and 3.1) Generation (of heat with a kerosene heater). Today I want to close out this blog arc with the 3.2) Generation of heat with a wood/coal stove section.
My cast iron heat stove is a Coalbrookdale Severn unit, a 500-pound British product that is no longer being manufactured. I mentioned this in an earlier blog about heating with coal. There is a lot of chat about this stove on-line, and there seems to be widely divergent opinions about it — its owners either love it or hate it, no one is ambivalent. My pal Tony scored this one for me during a renovation project he was doing, where the client wanted this stove removed and the preceding fireplace rehabilitated. Tony’s crew installed this in my barn basement last winter. I decided to put it there for several reasons.
First, I did not want to sacrifice floor space in my main shop to the wood stove, which if used perfectly safely and some amount of fuel storage would have consumed more than 10% of the available shop space. So, it was just a preferential space expression on my part. Second, having an open flame heat source in the middle of a woodworking shop was something my insurance company was hesitant about. On that point keeping it in the concrete block basement with a packed gravel floor made sense. Another reason is that the space in the basement is not to be an unused space, in fact it will be my machine shop. Nothing is colder than handling tons of freezing cold iron, so having the main heart source down there is a big plus. Finally, heating that space will keep the floor in my shop warmed, so I won’t be standing on a cold floor all the time.
Using the stove, especially for coal, is a bit tricky. The firebox is really small, so if I am burning wood I need to tromp down stairs every 90 minutes or so to put more wood in. I am still trying to get the hang of using coal. There must be a special technique for igniting anthracite, of which I have some inventory, but once it gets going it goes gangbusters.
Still, I was wrestling with the fact that the heat distribution from the stove was pretty much passive, and would take almost all day to get the studio warm enough. I didn’t want a complicated, dynamic distribution system that would need a lot of gadgeteering and monitoring/maintenance, but I definitely needed to find a better way to get the heat from the firebox into the studio a lot quicker.
I recently acquired and installed an accessory to enhance the wood/coal stove dramatically, namely this heat recovery unit that fits in line with the stove pipe. It has been thus far a remarkable addition to the heating system for the shop. Once the stove gets heated up, the thermostatically controlled fan in the heat recovery unit kicks in and it starts gently blowing hot air into the shop space, and if I keep the fire in the stove going, it keeps the shop warm enough that I generally peel off my vest in short order.
So, my typical shop day heating cycle begins with me lighting the kerosene heater when I first get there, then trekking downstairs to start building up the heat in the cast iron stove, then back up to the studio to start working. Before I know it, the fan for the heat reclaimer comes on and I soon turn off the kerosene heater as the temperature climbs quickly to about 60 degrees, which suits me just fine. With a little fire maintenance throughout the day I am entirely comfortable working in the studio. Once I get the real hang of the coal fire, I can probably cut down on the fire maintenance to once in the morning and once at night.
Its 7 outside today. I kept stuffing wood in the stove in my shop but it didn’t seem to help. I did manage to get a couple planes done. Some for me, and some for sale.
And lets pray for some warmer weather!
My creative workspace seemed softer this morning when I arrived. It’s funny how it does that; takes on different shades as I work through the hours of a day and the days of a given week. It changes according to task really, but I am obsessed about dust even though I barely use machines any more. People often tell me that you can’t make a living without them but that’s not really true at all. I would like to show you pictures of a man’s walking canes when he sent me pictures inspired by the blog I did on starting your own business a year or so ago. They are just stunning. He hand carves a scroll and has called them by his name. He made his first $5,000 from making his own design into a reality. I decided not to post pictures because I don’t want others copying his designs. He has a winner with it though. When I need a cane I know who to call. Anyway, mostly it’s about a made up mind. With a made up mind you can achieve unbelievable goals. Just be realistic. In a given year I may use my machines for perhaps six to ten days total now. I can expand on how I do that one day. But I still try to stay on top of dust even from only hand sanding and vacuum regularly to make sure every ounce of dust is extracted frequently enough to stop film build-up on any surface. That’s very different than the ten bench workshop of my apprentice days. Back then the dust extractor and shaving removal was me and a wide grain shovel and broom. I swept between the benches when demand was high, which varied but could be two to three time a day. When a voice shouted, “Boy!” I jumped, grabbed the broom and started sweeping. At the end of any given day the shavings were thick. I mean thick, thick, thick. Long ribbons trampled under foot, flattened and kicked out of the way throughout the day. Often they were redwood, but other times they were meranti or kerruing, makori, mahogany, sapele, parana pine, oak, sometime sycamore or ash. Even after machine planing every surface was always hand planed but we did use a strafe sander that had no extractor and the men stood there with only a surgical mask as protection. It was a miserable machine. The machine shavings were bagged and sold for horse bedding and chickens but in the wintertime they stoked the boiler for heat and I was the boiler man too. So, that’s me rambling a bit really. Sorry.
We finally coated the toolbox with its final coat of wood finish in paint and clear coat as a top coat and the end result really pleased me. We got the last coats on to film yesterday too. Its now a video in progress and the dynamic of painting is explained thoroughly using chalk paint and a water-based top coat or three. It’s an amazing finish really and I love the way these new finishes are working out these days in that they give variety of options we never used to have and clean up under a water tap simplifies everything all the more. I like the fact that you can create your own stains, mix in a second and you effectively deny the solvents access to the drains and waterways of the world. This water based topcoat is the best, and I mean the very best I’ve used too. It feels like shellac when done, soft and smooth, but the application is very different. It’s extremely durable, even for floors, and promises a long life too. I have one more step to go, a trial, a test to complete if you will.
Overall I am pleased with the way the building of the toolbox has gone so I stamped my name on it with my new name stamp from Ray Iles. I know those following the build on woodworking masterclasses are enjoying it too and I’ve seen some great results from those who made it following my blog from a few months ago.
I took my evening walk through winter-bare woods this evening; it’s good to close out a week on unsteady feet scrambling that way. Sanity of sod under my feet and snowdrops hanging like bright, wintery-white luminescent lights builds and my mood changes to take a little rest. A few minutes looking at my wood in the raw, first in the sky and then to the ground below, reminds me how important my Source is. Here’s a giant minus a limb and so too a downed beech cleaved through the middle to reveal the true causes of demise inside. Somehow I like the natural culling of clean through its 4-foot mass resting on rottenness now lying amidst more lost limbs. New growth will soon arrive to replace them and the perpetuity of wood and the life-breathing tree continues to clean our air and provide for our future.
This has been on my 'to do' list for some time, and a post Xmas lull has given me the time. This is my take on the classic Scandinavian bench with a shoulder vice, there is nothing better for dovetailing!
I owned an original bench made by Lief Carlsson who's father made James Krenov's bench http://www.workbenches.se/en/index.php and it was wonderfully made thing. Although there were a number of niggles I had with the design and so after 4 years I sold it to a friend.
The main change I made was to make the shoulder vice much smaller, it's opening capacity is halved to 4" which is plenty for any work I do and it brings me much closer to the work. This also meant that the reduced overhang didn't require the support of a fifth leg which was always getting in my way. Instead I just reinforced the leg and added some nice curves.
The other changes I made were to greatly shorten the vice handle, make the frame flush with the edge of the top, lower the main rail so I could work seated and raise the overall height to a much more comfortable 37".
You'll also notice the construction was greatly simplified by not having any cross grain timber requiring large dovetails. I just simply went for 4" timber all the way through which makes it as solid as a rock. I decided to stick with the tool well, not so much for it's usefulness, but to reduce the weight of the top as I intend to take this bench to shows.
Instead of the traditional hugely complicated tail vice, I installed a very neat inset vice made by HNT Gordon http://www.hntgordon.com.au/bench-vices.html This took less than an hour to mark out and fit. Having a 1/2" router with spiral bit certainly speeded up material removal. Personally I don't use a tail vice but this will be useful at shows for customers trying out my planes.
An article on the making of this bench will be appearing in Furniture and Cabinet Making magazine and I'll be doing a YouTube video on both the bench as well as the vice in the near future.
It took me 30 hours to make spread over 2 weeks and measures 5' long x 27" wide x 37" high. The main top is 20" wide and the working area is 12" wide x 4" thick.
I put it through it's paces today and it's a pleasure to work with!
The lessons inside “By Hand & Eye” cannot be learned by reading alone, any more than you can learn to cut dovetails from a book.
You must put pencil to paper so the book’s ideas about proportion will become physical things on the page before you. Then the ideas will be in your fingers – not just your mind. When I was editing “By Hand & Eye,” I had to perform these exercises to gain entrance into the heads of Jim Tolpin, George Walker and the pre-Industrial artisans. (Many of the exercises were done at a bar in the Dallas/Fort Worth airport, which generated a lot of odd looks from fellow passengers.)
It was well-worth doing and has absolutely made me a better designer.
This week we had a reader who was struggling with the first drawing exercise in the book called “Making a Visual Scale.” In that exercise, you are asked to make seven rectangles using a compass, straightedge and pencil. Tolpin and Walker are purposely a little obtuse about the process to make the rectangles because it’s important that you make a small mental leap yourself.
To help the reader, George offered a small nudge on his blog yesterday in this entry. If you have been struggling with this exercise (or skipped it – naughty, naughty), here’s the chance to wake up your inner eye this Saturday. Give it a cup of coffee.
For those of you who don’t own the book, here are the four pages from the book in pdf format so you can try it yourself.
If you like this sort of thing, you are going to be thrilled by an upcoming and inexpensive workbook from Tolpin and Walker. The workbook answers this question: Can you learn design from a cartoon dog? More details to come.
— Christopher Schwarz
P.S. “By Hand & Eye” is back in stock in the Lost Art Press store after we sold out of the last printing.
Filed under: By Hand & Eye, Downloads
Some may accuse me of being a woodcarving purist in many ways. However, I am also practical in that when I have to get a job done, I take advantage of the modern technologies available to make my life a little easier. Let’s say, for example, that I have finished carving a complicated acanthus leaf design and I want to make an exact duplicate – only in reverse.
Here’s how –
Step 1: Take a photo of your carving
Step 2: Put your photo file into your computer photo editor
Step 3: Make a reverse or mirror image
Step 4: Print out the reversed photo image –
Step 5: Take this to your shop so you can view in the correct position. This way you don’t have to turn your brain inside and try to figure out the details in reverse. Trust me, it’s NOT easy.
One way to transfer your design in reverse is to make a plastic or cardboard template of half the design and turn it over to produce the other half. This works for repetitive and symmetrical designs that are used more for tracing around the outside edges of designs.
You can also use a thin type of paper (tracing paper or velum) with a design drawn on it. Turn the paper over and you should be able to see the design through the paper in reverse. You can then trace it onto your wood with carbon paper or transfer paper.
Can’t think of anything else at the moment. Just trying to help so you don’t hurt your brain!
If you have any other ideas of working with reverse images, please share!
When I first began building things, I kept a manila folder in which I stored pages torn from magazines and museum catalogs, as well as photos of pieces (and other things) that inspired me. It was always a jumbled mess – but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing; having to shift through the pages and pictures to find a barely remembered thing I thought I’d stashed there often led me […]
I recently made this marking gauge taken from Dean Jansa’s Popular Woodworking article from 2009. My other wooden gauge is of the English screw-locking variety and I was always happy enough with its performance. That is until I saw Bob Rozaieski’s video. When I watched him set the French gauge entirely with one hand, its efficiency became immediately apparent. It locks by wedge action so that once you have your depth aligned, you can press the wide end of your wedge with your thumb. With it secured by thumb pressure, one quick tap on the bench top drives it in tight. To release, tap the small end of the wedge on the bench. Also, the wedge is captured when the arm’s installed so you don’t have to worry about the little guy falling out during your work. I’m happy I finally made this gauge. If you haven’t tried one, watch Bob’s video and then make one for yourself. You won’t regret it.